Multipronged approach needed to combat truancy

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A recent report by the Charleston Gazette says about one-third of public school students have five or more unexcused absences during a school year.

Technically, that makes that student truant, and along with his or her parents, eligible to face consequences in the legal system, including fines and possibly even jail time (for parents).

The Gazette study of West Virginia Department of Education statistics revealed that the state average for truancy is about 31 percent. But in some counties, including neighboring Lewis, Braxton and Gilmer, the truancy rate has been much higher in the past two years.

The truancy rate in Braxton County for the 2012-13 school year was a state worst 62.4 percent. Lewis was next at 60 percent.

Last school year, Gilmer was at 53 percent (the previous year it was at 23 percent) while Lewis was at 51 percent. Braxton dropped to 41 percent.

Other area counties show disparate numbers from 2012-13 to 2013-14: Harrison County, 34.9 percent, 33 percent; Barbour County, 27.5 percent, 27.8 percent; Doddridge County, 25.9 percent, 28.2 percent; Taylor County, 39.2 percent, 19 percent; Upshur County, 22.7 percent, 37 percent.

When you consider the emphasis placed on having students in school for the state-required 180 days, the thought that such a high number of students are missing school five or more days is alarming. Factor in that this data only includes unexcused absences, and the concern increases significantly.

As state education officials emphasized in getting lawmakers to adjust school calendars, our students can best learn from quality classroom experiences of a consistent nature.

The high rate of truancy has to have a negative impact for many of those students involved, as well as the overall education system.

As several education and law enforcement officials have indicated in the past, socioeconomic factors generally influence school attendance rates.

Those students living in poverty must overcome obstacles that those living in more affluent situations don’t, ranging from lack of transportation, lack of proper nutrition and lack of proper adult guidance.

Unfortunately, by allowing such a high number of students to be truant, the system is perpetuating a vicious cycle…

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